South African Military History Society


The thirty-sixth Annual General Meeting of the Society was held in Johannesburg on 11th April. Any members wanting copies of the Chairman's or Treasurer's Reports, the Financial Statements and/or the minutes of the previous AGM are welcome to contact the Secretary/Treasurer, Joan Marsh, at any of the above numbers, and she will gladly post or fax them to you.

The Chairman highlighted the quality and variety of the lecture programme and the appearance of the new format Military History Journal as being key achievements of 2001.

The Society's finances were in a sound state although overall membership had dropped - by 1 - from that of 2000. The Journal continues to be the major expenditure item for the Society.

The Lt-Col. Dr J.C.D. Machanik Prize for the best main lecture of 2001 was awarded to George Barrell for "The Battle of Britain - an alternative view" and the George Barrell Prize for the best curtain raiser to Colin Dean for his talk "Early Submarines".

Hamish Paterson stood down after his two year Chairmanship and the meeting elected Colin Dean as Chairman of the Society. With the exception of Dr Machanik the committee was available for re-election. Mr Hoorweg was elected in the vacancy caused by Dr Machanik's leaving. The committee for 2002/3 is thus: Colin Dean (Chair-man); George Barrell; Marjorie Dean; Flip Hoorweg; Heinrich Janzen; Joan Marsh; Lynn Miller; John Murray and Hamish Paterson.

It is announced with regret that Felix Machanik has resigned from the Society Committee on grounds of advanced age and ill health. Felix is the last surviving founding member serving on the committee, and his attendance will be sorely missed. As an assurance of his continuing interest in the society and its activities, Felix has offered to extend the prize he awards for the best main lecture of any year given to the society in Johannesburg, to the Durban and Cape Town branches. The prize consists of a certificate, and a cheque for R100. The first awards will be for the best lectures in the current year.

'The Other Side of the Tapestry' was the title of the evening lecture given by Frank Bullen. The subject was the many intriguing aspects of the famous Bayeux tapestry - in reality an embroidery - which depicts in serial form the events surrounding the most significant event in English medieval history, the Battle of Hastings in October 1066.

The tapestry is currently housed in the cathedral at Bayeux, the capital city of the French province of Normandy. Its origins are still being debated. The most widely accepted view is that it was worked in Normandy to commemorate William the Conqueror's victory over the England's King Harold II. But there is considerable evidence that it might in fact have been crafted in England, possibly at the Cathedral of Canterbury. The level of artistic achievement in late Anglo-Saxon England was highly developed, whereas the Normans' most notable artistic achievements at this time were in the field of church architecture.

The inspiration and motives for producing such a work are equally open to conjecture. It is popularly accepted that the tapestry was the work of William's queen, Matilda, and the ladies of her court. But there is much to indicate that the main inspiration may have come from William's younger brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. Odo fought in the battle, and the frequency of his appearance in the tapestry, and the manner of it, are such as to arouse speculation. He was well known for his ambition and love of fame.

There can be no doubt that one of the main motives for producing the tapestry was to support William's claim to the throne and excuse the means he used to obtain it. Harold is depicted taking an oath that he would not oppose William, and, while doing so, touching two reliquaries containing holy relics. It is clear that the aim was to empha-size the extent of Harold's perfidy in breaking such a solemn promise, despite the fact he was under considerable duress at the time because he was a virtual prisoner.

What is completely certain is that William was victorious at Hastings and Harold was killed - along with a substantial portion of the Anglo-Saxon nobility. But the question of exactly how Harold died is unanswered in the tap-estry. He is shown twice, once plucking an arrow from his eye, the other being slashed in his left thigh by a sword-wielding Norman horseman. Of course, it's possible both versions are correct.


The South African Military History Society will convene a luncheon at 12h30 on Sunday 9 June 2002 at the Rand Club, Loveday St., Johannesburg, to remember this very special event in South Africa's history.
The Rand Club has been chosen as the venue because it is one of the few surviving buildings in Johannesburg with direct links to the events of 1988-2002.
Cost of the luncheon, including wine, will be R155 per person. Safe parking is available. For more information and to book, call Lyn Miller at (011) 442-7540 during office hours, or (011) 442-1637 after hours.



9 May
CR Marjorie Dean - The Historical Novel: A Place to Start
ML Bayonets - A South African Arms & Ammunition Collectors Association (SAAACA) Presentation
13 June
CR Colin Dean - The German Underground
ML David Williams - The Battle of Sidi Rezegh, 1941


9 May
DDH Dr Gus Allen - Irish Cameo No.2
ML Paul Kilmartin - The Battle of Loos, September 1915

Cape Town

9 May
Col. Lionel Crook - The Cape Field Artillery in Angola
Cape Town:

George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581

Contact number in Cape Town: John (Jochen) Mahncke (021) 797-5167

Contact number in Durban: Dr Ingrid Machin (031) 201-3983

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